County to switch to single-stream recycling

By DeeAnna Haney | Jun 27, 2014
Artwork by: Matt Perusi

Beginning July 1, the county will switch to a single stream recycling program, a new system that allows all recyclables to be placed in one container.

The county's goal is simple: to make it as easy as possible for people to recycle.

"Our biggest complaint when it comes to recycling is it's not easy. If you make it as easy as this to throw something away, then there's no excuse anymore," said Stephen King, director of solid waste management for the county.

The walk-in trailers at the convenience centers will be removed and replaced with two containers, one for trash and one for recyclables. Unlike before when papers were separate from cardboard which was separate from cans and bottles, the recyclable container will hold everything that can be recycled.

The county plans to eventually revamp some of the convenience centers to make them easier to navigate. The idea is to change the traffic flow so there will be one way in and one way out.

"When they pull up, on one side they can throw trash and the other side recyclables. The recyclables can all be single stream so all recyclables can be mixed together," King said.

There will no longer be a need for consumers to walk into a trailer and separate the milk jugs from the magazines because single stream recycling eliminates that. Single stream means now cardboard, newspaper, milk jugs, magazines, plastics and aluminum cans can all be placed in one container.

"We are going to focus our educational efforts on single stream recycling because it's as easy to put it in the trash as it is to put it in recycling and the county saves money by putting it in recyclables versus the trash," King said.

Recycling helps support local jobs and helps the local economy. That's because it costs money for the county to bury trash — $22.25 per ton. But there are hardly any costs associated with recycling.

King hopes the switch to single stream will increase the amount of recycling in the county. The latest numbers from the North Carolina Department of Environment and Natural Resources rank Haywood County as number 17 when it comes to per capita recovery on public, recycling 162.42 pounds per person. Ranking number one in the state is Catawba County at 638.73 pounds per person. One thing that many of the higher ranking counties have in common is single stream recycling, King said.

"Every study the state has done has shown that going single stream has boosted their recycling efforts quite a bit — 15 to 20 percent," he said.

The ranking tells King that the county is throwing away far more than it should be. For every one bag of trash, King takes out about three bags of recycling in his own home.

"Anywhere from 30 to 40 percent of what's being buried at the landfill could be recycled," he said. "The county could save a lot of money by composting and recycling. We could probably save half the disposal amount and that adds up over time."

Though Santek Environmental is now in the expanded management operation at the White Oak landfill, which allowed the burial of out-of-county garbage removed the county's obligation to pay $127,000 monthly fee, trash is still a large expense for the county.

Under this agreement with Santek, the county is no longer responsible for cell construction or closure and post closure costs of the landfill. However, the county is still responsible for paying for waste that residents put in the landfill at a cost of $22.25 per ton, the same rate charged to all who use the landfill. The budget for the upcoming fiscal year estimates that residential waste will cost the county about $550,000.

Santek is now turning over 5 percent of the revenue made at the landfill back to the county, which will amount to about $100,000 per year, all of which will go back to support solid waste operations.

"We have to bring in revenue to support our operations. People want convenience centers, they want a place to bring their waste and we are supplying them that service, but there is still a cost associated with it. We either recycle at no cost or throw it away at a cost," King said.

The typical recyclables such as paper products, plastic bottles and jugs #1 through #7, clear, green and amber glass bottles and jars, corrugated cardboard, household cardboard boxes such as cereal or cake mix boxes, shampoo bottles, laundry detergent bottles, etc., can all be removed from the landfill if residents only sorted them separately.

If recycling plastic bottles, such as a soda bottle, be sure to leave the plastic cap on, as it is also recyclable, King said.

Other items such as lithium batteries, carpet, motor oil, cooking oil and rigid plastics such as lawn furniture or plastic toys, may still be recycled at the Materials Recovery Facility in Clyde.

Some items that are not recyclable include cat food containers, styrofoam, used paper towels or tissues, soiled pizza boxes or take out containers, grocery bags and garden hoses.

He encourages anyone who wants to learn more about recycling or wishes to tour the Materials Recovery Facility to call and set up an appointment at 828-627-8042.